This statement comes from a Network member leading in higher education. Among all of the changes he and his constituents are currently experiencing, this is the primary one he is focused on. How does he know to focus on this? He knows because he spends time listening to his constituents, and he has heard, and understands, the challenges they are facing.

I have heard this stated by many in the Network in the past few months – how important it is to listen to constituents.We are all smart people, with experience in our field, and a good understanding of our organization and those we serve, yet, if we don’t take the time to listen to our constituents, we won’t get it right. We will miss things. We will miss opportunities. We will make mistakes. We will presume too much. Because things change so quickly that no one person can keep up. When the world around us is changing like it has in the last year, listening is what will help us manage the change.

I am currently working with a number of clients on their donor experience journey. What is that and why does it matter? A donor experience journey is a map of a donor’s life that includes their interactions with your organization – the tip of the iceberg that you see – and all of the other things in their lives that you don’t see. It is the whole picture of a donor and the very small part that your organization plays in their lives. Why does it matter? Because it jolts us out of our perspective and puts us in the shoes of our donors and helps us create interactions that are as meaningful for them as they are for us, which is what helps build lasting relationships.

But that means we will have to change with the needs of our constituents. Or as one leader in the network said recently,“An organization’s adaptability is its key to success.” She is seeing the responses of the many nonprofit organizations she works with and noticing that the ones that have a robust practice of being able to adapt are the ones that are thriving. Adaptability is a practice. It is a muscle that we either exercise or we lose. Some of us have been jolted into a new adaptability exercise program in the last year. Others have been working that muscle all along. I think that all of us can learn to do this better.